By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2005-02-28 Print this article Print

Avocent Corp.s DSI5100 appliance provides secure out-of-band access to IPMI-enabled target devices and reliably relays system information using Avocents DSView centralized management software. However, the appliance/software combination is expensive, and the system is best suited for larger sites that need to extract Intelligent Platform Management Interface information.

The IPMI specification is an industry standard for out-of-band system management. An embedded BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) in an IPMI device collects internal hardware information such as processor temperature, fan speeds and power supply voltage. The BMC runs independently of the underlying hardware and software and allows IT managers to remotely monitor system health and control system power.

In eWEEK Labs tests, the DSI5100 relayed IPMI information adequately over the network, and we believe data center IT managers who seek additional system health information or wish to keep closer tabs on their server hardware should take a look at this appliance.

The $1,500 DSI5100 appliance, which shipped in January, has a compact form factor and can be rack-mounted. The DSI5100 runs an embedded Linux kernel and can support as many as 64 IPMI devices.

However, the only way to access the IPMI data collected by the DSI5100 is via Avocents DSView software, which is sold separately. DSView software is priced starting at $1,300 for a single user and up to $37,500 for 50 users.

Sites already using Avocents DSView software to manage KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switches, serial devices and external power distribution units will find the DSI5100 to be a good fit for managing IPMI-capable systems in-house.

The DSView management software provides a secure way to manage Avocents line of out-of-band management devices in large distributed data center environments. DSView allows many users to remotely access systems such as KVMs, serial consoles of network devices, external power systems and now IPMI devices, using a standard Web browser such as Internet Explorer.

Click here to read Labs review of Avocents EVR1500 appliance. DSI5100 users cannot share IPMI information—only one user can access the data from a single device at a time. In the future, we hope that Avocent makes it possible for data to be shared in real time for better user collaboration during system diagnostics or troubleshooting.

DSView 3.0, released at the end of last year, offers new failover and load balancing capabilities as well as improved interface performance . DSView can be installed only on Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 machines.

The DSI5100 currently supports IPMI 1.5 target devices; Avocent officials said an upgrade that supports IPMI 2.0 is in the works.

In tests, we powered up the DSI5100 and connected it to our flat LAN using a standard Ethernet cable. The DSI5100 can be quickly configured for the network using the serial console, which we used to configure the appliance for DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).

Configuring the appliance and IPMI target devices within the DSView software was more challenging: The DSView user interface is not very intuitive, and some of the menus are quite cumbersome to use. Adding IPMI devices requires the manual input of the devices BMC IP address. An auto-discovery feature would greatly ease initial setup, especially for sites with a large number of IPMI target devices.

Once properly configured, we mined the IPMI targets BMC data from the DSI5100 and got a graphical at-a-glance view of system parameters. During tests, we found the appliance takes a while to display system data from the target device, and the connectivity with the BMC was sporadic—we had to repeat the query to get the IPMI data.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

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